“Let’s take a ride in an electric car
To the west side in an electric car
How can you deny an electric car
Won’t you take a ride with me
Come on and take a ride with me!!” – Electric Car, They Might Be Giants
I am not sure why folks need music players on long races. I am so busy keeping the bike on a fast line, eating, thinking about the trail ahead (checkpoints, huge hills, etc), and generally “being there” that I have never had need of music to keep my mind occupied. I have now done three “ultras”, all with a music player of some sort stuffed into that mp3 player pocket jackets seem to come with these days and have never turned it on. Perhaps someday the player will be required, as I am pretty new to long races, so I will, I expect, keep taking a player along. I am not sure it will ever be required though, as after several hours have gone by music just starts to randomly play in my head, and fortunately I always seem to like the songs. During the last hours of my Whites 100 I had several They Might Be Giants songs stuck in my head from albums I have been listening to with the Twins. Somewhere between the final checkpoint and the trail shelter the “Electric Car” started playing in my head, keeping me entertained while I pushed up the Wickersham Wall and a short while later finished the 100.
The race started on a Sunday morning, so on Saturday I packed up the bike and got everything ready to go. I took a short test ride around the local trails and bumped into the eventual fourth place finisher who was on a similar quick jaunt to make sure the wheels still spun and other bike bits all still worked. Everything seemed in order, so I loaded the bike into the truck, and spent the rest of the day with the twins and Nancy. In the evening I headed to bed early, but soon found I was much too excited to actually sleep, and so I kept Nancy up with my tossing and turning.
Eventually the morning arrived and we headed out after leaving the Twins still sleeping away in their beds with a friend. We headed out of town after picking up Tom, and in a little less than a hour we arrived at the start of the race. The trailhead was full of excitement and activity, with folks unloading their bikes, skis, and sleds. Eventually everyone lined up at the start, and after a count down everyone was off. The start of the race was a bit of a mad house – lots of skiers and bikers heading up hill on a narrow trail. I ended up pushing for the first quarter mile or so before things thinned out enough that the folks were actually moving fast enough to warrant riding. The trail was very, very fast – wonderfully hard and good riding.
My goal for this race was to push my self a bit more than I normally do – the last two 100 mile races I have done I did in a pretty mellow conservative style and didn’t push to hard in order to make sure I didn’t completely collapse before the end. The end result was I finished with quite a bit of energy left and the feeling that perhaps I should have gone a bit harder, so for this race the idea was to push a bit harder and see how things go. I hoped to reach the high point of the race, the Cache Mt divide, before the afternoon when I expected things to get pretty soft and warm. Once over the divide the trail is sheltered by mountains and trees, so I expected it would remain pretty firm even durring mid day, so the riding would still be good durring the warm part of the day. Or so I hoped anyway. I reached the first checkpoint fairly quickly and past a number of skiers on the way. The skiers were really hauling, but the firm snow definitely gave bikers the edge.
After about two hours I reached the first checkpoint, where I signed in and out right away, and headed back out. Soon after the checkpoint I dropped my camera after passing a skier and that was the end of the photos. I passed several skiers and one biker before reaching the next checkpoint around noon. Checkpoint number two, Cache Mt cabin, was staffed by several happy souls, including one fellow, Bob, who had skied the race the year prior. I did a quick check in, topped off with water, grabbed a foil wrapped baked potato, and headed back out. The next 10 miles of the course are gradually uphill and eventually lead to the highest point on the race, Cache Mt divide. This section of trail always seems to take forever on skis, but zoomed by on a bike in the race. I had pretty much assumed I would be pushing up this hill, and was very, very surprised it could be almostly completely ridden. It appears from the tracks that the leading bikers rode the entire way up – alas I was a bit to wimpy for that and pushed in a couple of spots. Amazingly at least one skier skied the whole way up, and appeared to have double poled up several steep sections where the trail was narrow. Just before I reached the divide I was passed by a skier, Cory Smith, who was slowly skating up the divide. Slowly skating, but going quite a bit faster than I was pushing.. The divide was marked by a snow sculpture this year, which I assume was put up by some of the race staff. Just before the divide there is a little tiny windswept tree with a single marten set in it – when ever I pass it I always wonder what the trapper was thinking, as all the marten are safely back down the hill a mile or so back in the trees.
The ride down the divide to the ice lakes was a exciting exercise in punchy snow riding, with several crashes and lots of flailing. Just before the ice lakes started I was passed by three skiers going full bore. It would be another two hours or so before I would catch up with them again. The trail at this point was fairly soft and marginal for riding. A biker caught up with me and suggested I air down while passing me, and taking his advice let some air out. I probably should have aired down right after heading down the divide, as it made riding much easier, and before I knew it I was back in the shade of the trees and the riding sped up again. I made a brief stop at checkpoint three, Windy Gap cabin, getting more water and a bowl of meatball soup and then headed back down the trail.
I have done the section from the ice lakes to Windy Gap cabin several times before, but only in the dark, and was very, very impressed by the wonderful views. I will have to get back this way again some time in the daylight again. The next twenty miles of trail were super fast. I caught up with the three skiers who passed me and eventually got by them and on to the final checkpoint, Borealis Cabin. I checked my GPS just before I passed the final skier and was amazed to see them going a little under 15 miles an hour, on an ever so slight downhill – amazing! I ducked into Borealis, signed in, drank some Coke, had some chips, and headed out again, just in time to see two of the skiers arrive. They were making quite good time – I think they averaged almost 10 miles an hour from Windy Gap to Borealis, which is pretty darn fast. I think I have skied this in section in around 5 hours before, and they had just did it in around 2 – mind numbingly fast!
The next section of trail was a bit harder for me, as my legs were starting to feel the effort, but it was not too bad. I stopped at the Trail Shelter, an “unofficial checkpoint”, chatted a bit with the Kat the volunteer staffing it, and then headed out. I finally passed the “let more air out” biker at this point, and soon caught up and passed another biker just before the final big climb, the Wickersham Wall. She was the last racer I was to see until I finished.. The last miles of the race were a bit of a slog – it started to snow a bit and the trail got to be pretty soft, making for slow, uncertain riding. Eventually I reached the parking lot a little after 9pm and I was done. Alas, I didn’t get to hang out that much as I was in a hurry to get home and take over Twin care, but I did say hi to the racers hanging out watching folks come in. After a couple of minutes of hanging out I packed the bike up, and drove home find to the Twins snorting away and relieved Amy of her child care duties.
I was super happy with my race – I felt good the entire time, with no energy or stomache troubles of any kind. I attribute this mainly to my race mantra of “When In Doubt Drink, Eat!” If I started feeling even a little bit low energy I chugged down more water and gobbled up some food in an attempt to stave off the monsters of dehydration and bonk. This appeared to work pretty well. I could have gone a bit harder in a couple of sections, but all in all I think I did a fairly good job of pushing myself, so I was pretty happy. I got to bed at 12pm or so, and made it up in time to take the Twins to school the next morning. In the afternoon we headed back out to the start and end of the race to wait for Nancy.
Nancy was very surprised to see the whole family waiting for her. She had a great race and I think enjoyed herself immensely – go Nancy go! You can read her account here.
This race is very fun, and highly recommended! The folks running it really understand how these sort of races should be put together, and it shows. Hopefully they keep at it, as this race is sure to be a major hit in the coming years.